Like so much of modern Bali, Ubud’s charm is a carefully manicured one. Beguiling global visitors in their droves, the cultural capital of this tiny emerald isle has spent the past decade and a half courting a wellness movement. Holy pilgrims joined by devotees of holistic enlightenment; achieved, in part, through a cleansing of the diet. An apt setting, really, since its name derives from the Balinese word ‘Ubad’, meaning; ‘medicine’.
Raw nutrition isn’t new, it has sustained communities since time immemorial and now Western convention seems to be warming to the idea — no oven required. And what the Ubudian setting has, that no raw-staurant in LA or London can fully capture, is the island’s deep Balinese-Hindu connection with nature. Pure respect for nature, sitting central to the faith.
There’s something mystical about this jungle-clad enclave. And whichever ship the fascination with raw, vegan, food sailed in on — the island’s indigenous communities eat (cooked) meat — it feels like the right place to commit oneself to an act of purification. Here’s where Ubud’s modern-day pilgrims seek their nourishment.
The entrance feels like a portal to another plain. One doesn’t walk through it, one floats. And swathed in lofty, scented, ambience you can indulge in Bali Flower Curry soup, Putu pizza and Bamboo Rolls — all never having tasted heat. The menu reads like an encyclopedia of mindful eating, complete with a map of the island locations where the ingredients used in each dish are grown. Understanding, not only of the health-giving properties of the foods we eat but the footprint of their journey to our plate, must be the very definition of eating “well”.
Raw food eaterie and academy of the same name and purpose, Alchemy is filled with light, beautiful people and the right kind of energy for a place that deals in ‘transformation for the better’. But it’s not about the aesthetic. Bound by a mission to educate in the joys of plant-based cuisine, Alchemy delivers 100% organic, perfectly balanced and entirely virtuous food from its humble kitchen. Create your own wholefood bowl from the well-stocked salad bar, indulge in raw, unrefined, cheesecake, and drink the probiotic water of fresh young coconut, amongst other things. The food comes blessed. And blessed are those who have the pleasure of eating it.
If you can look past the drumming circle, which you’re more likely to find here than in any other Ubud eaterie, the vast menu of raw and live foods, elixirs, and naturally saccharine goodies is worth any cliche that may have come to be associated with the mindful tribe. Living, wheat-free, breads, raw cacao and herbal kombuchas set to task replenishing the body with enzymes whilst the mind takes a pause in the low light. Set in a dark jungle garden, it’s an easy place to be seduced by Ubud—and a firm favourite amongst travellers and expats alike. Soma is a cafe with a heart, supporting the local farming industry and a host of nonprofits as par for the course in the game of conscious consumption.
Seeds is another raw food academy with a cafe of the same ilk; teaching the art of “Vibrant Living” through a holistic fusion of raw nutrition, Taoist herbalism, and rejuvenative therapies. The menu features more detoxifying tea varieties than it would ever be possible to try, along with aloe vera sashimi, living “pasta” and nourishing plates that promise to boost vitality. Banished is the bog-standard flour, cocoa powder, and sugar brownie—in its place, a reishi mushroom & cordyceps extract version, with coconut ice-cream. And worth a special mention is the Taco Tuesday—not the kind you’ve ever had at the local Mexican—rather; complete nutritional therapy.
Sayuri is a restaurant and shared space that embodies the Zen philosophy of connectedness, teaching both “un-cooking” and the art of cooking simply—the temple way—according to Zen, Ayurvedic and ancient Chinese principles. The aim is to align body and mind with nature through the act of careful preparation and, of course, eating. The cafe specialises in raw/living foods; all vegan, all wheat-free and all made with extracts of ‘medicine flowers’, for the purpose of healing from the inside out. Bowl foods with monumental names like Galactic and Ocean are joined on the menu by Norwegian ‘gravlax’, teriyaki tempeh and raw-seeded pizza.
Whether you believe in vibrational light and the lifeforce of plants or not, you can’t help but feel better for eating at these Ubud institutions.